Section II leadership announced an extension to the winter athletic season and the official start and end dates for the “Fall II” and spring seasons Tuesday.
The announcement comes on the heels of Friday’s decision by the New York Department of Health and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that will allow “high” risk sports to commence beginning with the winter season, which in Section II will now run through March 13. The winter season was previously scheduled to wind up on Feb. 28.
The “Fall II” season is scheduled to run March 7 through May 1. The original start was March 1.
“I think it’s a good thing for the winter sports because it gives them a couple more weeks,” said Fonda-Fultonville athletic director and boys’ basketball coach Eric Wilson. “I think it also helps the ‘Fall II’ [season] because of the weather.”
“I am really pleased with the way the calendar has been rolled out,” Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said. “It sort of equals out what the ‘high’ risk winter sports and Fall II get.”
The spring sports season will run May 3 through June 25, except for baseball teams that will begin April 28 due to the 10-day required practice rule.
“We’re trying the best we can to have as full of a season as we can for all of the kids,” Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton said.
The string of shortened seasons in Section II began in the fall when “low” and “moderate” risk sports in some leagues went from Sept. 21 through Nov. 21.
“While all four of our seasons were condensed, we are extremely pleased and grateful that we can provide the student-athletes and the school communities with the opportunity to participate in interscholastic athletics,” a press release from Section II stated. “This school year and the global pandemic have presented many challenges and sacrifices. We know that the interscholastic opportunities we provide will bring back some degree of normalcy for all involved.”
The “high” risk sports that include basketball, wrestling, hockey and competitive cheer in the winter, and boys’ and girls’ volleyball and football in the “Fall II” season, need further approval from county departments of health as well as their respective school districts before they can start formal practices and competition.
“The local DOHs have a tough job. There’s a lot on their plate, and this is another thing to deal with,” said Wilson. “We appreciate that they’re willing to take the time to talk to us.”
The “high” risk winter sports can begin Feb. 1 upon approval. The “low” and “moderate” risk winter sports that include bowling, boys’ swimming, skiing and gymnastics have been competing for the past few weeks.
“There are still a lot of hurdles,” Boynton said. “The governor was just the first.
While schools wait to hear from the local health departments about the fate of their “high” risk sports, their coaches and administrators are formulating tentative schedules and preparing to put COVID-19 protocols in place if given the opportunity.
“We met as a league, and I feel very good about what we’re doing,” said Wilson, whose school, located in Montgomery County, is a member of the Western Athletic Conference. “We’re trying to get out in front of it with our protocols and what we plan on doing.”
The Suburban Council schools have a plan in place, as well, one Culnan hopes the league’s respective county departments of health will take a hard look at. Rensselaer County, which includes Suburban Council schools Averill Park, Columbia and Troy, has already given approval for the “high” risk sports to commence.
“I feel very strongly about the plan we have in place in the Suburban Council. We’ve been meeting for three days and we’ve left no stone unturned. We are ready to host schools and send schools to other schools,” said Culnan, whose school is among those in Saratoga County. “I hope they look at the plan we put together and that it is about safety first and foremost. I also think what needs to be considered is the mental health and well-being of the student-athletes.”
All of the leagues in Section II include schools from multiple counties, and while some schools may receive the necessary approval to move forward with the “high” risk sports, others may not.
“We have to be flexible,” Culnan said.
“It would be unfortunate for the kids there, but you’ve got to have that understanding,” Wilson said. “Decisions are going to be made in the best interest of the community and the kids.”
Section II also announced Tuesday that it is taking a slightly more restrictive approach to the NYSDOH guidance on facemasks. The press release reads: “NYSDOH states that individuals must wear acceptable face coverings, unless players are unable to tolerate a face covering for the physical activity (e.g. practicing, playing); provided, however, that coaches, trainers, and other individuals who are not directly engaged in physical activity are required to wear a face covering. As proof of ‘unable to tolerate a face covering’ the home school district must obtain and document in the student-athlete’s medical record a physician’s statement to the matter.”